“I don’t even care about Star Wars!” is the new “I don’t even own a TV!” They’re both answers to a question no one’s ever asking, and my knee-jerk response in both cases is “I’m very sorry.” (Or: “I find your lack of cable disturbing.”) Star Wars, like Finn the fake Resistance fighter, is A Big Deal™. It has been for 38 years. Might as well quit your whining and get to used to it already.
In my pre-teen years, a broken leg laid me up for a couple months. I watched a lot of TV in that time, which was my number one defense against an encroaching depression. (Thank god I come from a family who knows what all our furniture should be pointed at.) Out of curiosity, I started watching A New Hope for the first time on a Sunday afternoon on AMC. Finding me dipping a toe into the Star Wars universe, my dad and brother saved me from commercial breaks by setting me up with the VHS copies I didn’t know we had. I commenced a day-long binge, and lost myself in all of it: the John Williams score; Luke’s hero’s journey, Han and Leia’s romance, and the wide expanse of that universe that predicted my future attachment to other sci-fi franchises.
Star Wars has been a part of me since that day. I bought stacks of Expanded Universe novels from the book store at the mall (my first fan fiction, sort of); saw every prequel in the theater and dutifully defended them until logic and taste won out; and in the past year, hoped hard that this new series would live up to the history and the hype.
We saw The Force Awakens on Thursday, Dec 18 at an IMAX theater in the middle of Times Square. The concession lines have never been longer and the lobby never more crowded. But instead of an pervasive feeling of stress and anxiety, the multiplex was buzzing with fannish excitement and a shared love. I’ve never had such a pleasant viewing experience. Times Square. The Hell Mouth. And no one dared speak or even look at a phone. The First Order may have hobbled away at the end of the movie to plan its next evil steps, but the Light Side won out that day. And our reactions to everything that happened on screen were nothing more or less than completely appropriate to the situation. A new Star Wars movie, y’all. AND A GOOD ONE. No reaction could be an overreaction.
“A LONG TIME AGO….”
“WE’RE SEEING A STAR WAR TODAY.”
I do this thing when I’m really excited about something and in danger of falling into singleminded mania over it. I compartmentalize. I can convince half of my active brain cells that the thing isn’t happening, or at least that’s it’s not happening so soon. Because of this strategy, I was able to book The Force Awakens tickets; purchase a new classic trio top for the occasion; coordinate with friends; and get settled in the theater before reality truly set in. Then the Lucasfilm logo materialized on screen to thunderous applause, followed by that iconic prologue text, and finally the crawl we’d all been waiting for. The reprise of John Williams’ soaring score punched my heart right in the face, as I always knew it would. And then the tears set in, because yes, this was really happening.
BB-8, Space Golden Retriever
The film’s marketing pushed central droid BB-8 as a mascot of sorts, and I wondered if all the hype for the spherical cutie would really pay off. Those dollars weren’t wasted. Like R2-D2 before him, BB-8 is instantly endearing. I just don’t know if I want to whisk him far, far away from the First Order/Resistance war and protect him* from all harm or follow him into battle and trust him with my life. Poe Dameron’s faithful co-pilot is a miracle of character design. He has so much personality – in his quality of movement, in his “vocalizations,” and in the way other characters act with him. The friendships between Poe/BB-8 and Rey/BB-8 are as different as the relationships between two sets of people. And the droid is parceled out in the perfect amount. He’s not the only source of comic relief or emotional connection (tempting to use the innocent for generating the bulk of the empathy), so The Force Awakens deployed BB-8 when he added to the story and left me wanting more. And by more, I mean the inevitable playful rivalry that’s bound to develop between the new kid on the block and R2, now that Master Luke’s droid is awake.
*PS I’m with Oscar Isaac: droids have no gender. I’m using male pronouns here for convenience only.
Poe & Finn, Finn & Poe
I dared not hope to come out of The Force Awakens with a new ship, let alone one this pure and good. If you need me between this movie and the release of Episode VII, I’ll be reblogging StormPilot fan art over on Tumblr and managing a YOU BETTER LET THIS HAPPEN letter writing campaign to Disney.
It’s a Garbage Ship, But It’s OUR Garbage Ship
The Enterprise. Serenity. The TARDIS. The best vessels in sci-fi history are characters themselves. The re-introduction of the Millennium Falcon wasn’t an opportunity to be wasted, and JJ gave it the precise amount of fan service necessary. Our entire theater greeted Han’s baby with cheers, and the callbacks to its earlier missions (the holographic chess set, the tall tales of unmatched speed), giving the Falcon its due as an indispensable cog in the Star Wars universe.
HAN. FUCKING. SOLO.
Could get. Forever.
Rey Is A Cinnamon Roll, But A Deadly One
I may be (definitely am) overfond of hyperbole, but it is not possible to overstate the importance of Rey. She’s a character adult Star Wars fans have been waiting decades to meet. And I’m not even that jealous that young audiences get to grow up with her, because frankly, it’s going to make them better people and better nerds.
Princess Leia is and has always been a boss. Her impatience, anger, and sarcasm spoke to a budding loudmouth. Even that wankboy slave bikini couldn’t strip away any of Leia’s status as a leader and a legend. (“To me, she’ll always be royalty.”) But Rey fills a completely different role than Leia. Her character isn’t rooted in gender. You could swap Daisy Ridley out with Chris Evans, and Rey WOULD NOT CHANGE. I mean, she’d have had a lot more toys made in her image, but that’s about it.
Rey works hard, and doesn’t think the universe owes her anything. She’s cheated daily, but there’s no time or point in crying over it. She doesn’t need Finn to hold her hand, but she does allow him to become her friend. She runs from her destiny when it scares her. She discovers a deep well of inner strength when a man tries to violate her mind and her memories. (SO IMPORTANT.) She’s not shy about teaching Han Solo how to fly his own ship. Revenge sounds pretty good to her, but getting her comrade to safety sounds better. She’s a hero for everyone, not just for girls – if the whoops that rang out through our theater any time Rey did something badass is any indication. I was at the airport the other day, and a 7 or 8 year old boy stood in front of me with his parents. We waited half an hour to get through security, and the boy spent the entire time whispering to his Lego Rey and zooming her around on her land speeder. He probably had other toys in his little backpack, but Rey was the one he picked to hold in his hand. I couldn’t stop smiling over it, and I NEVER smile in Newark.
Lin Manuel Miranda Got Me Helpless In Like Three Different Forms Of Media
On behalf of my fellow drama geeks, I’d like to thank JJ Abrams for enlisting the talents of In The Heights and Hamilton composer Lin-Manuel Miranda to write and perform the song underscoring the scene at Maz Kanata’s watering hole. Every thing the man does turns me into a fawning groupie, even singing in an alien language.
Poe Lives And Maybe Needs A Welcome Back Kiss
ARE YOU KIDDING ME.
After Poe “died” in the TIE Fighter crash, my inner monologue kept insisting “We never saw a body, we never saw a body.” Still, Finn thought his first friend completely gone and vice versa. Their relief and thrill upon being reunited with each other absolutely was not proportional to casual acquaintances. They literally RAN to each other, and for a second, I wildly wondered if they might actually kiss. Instead, they stand incredibly close, share meaningful eye contact, and flirt over the fact that Finn is still WEARING POE’S JACKET. LOOK AT POE’S FUCKING FACE. Live your life, but if you do not ship this ship, you are missing something in the feelings department.
Leia And Han Still Love Each Other And Know
Dear Diary: On Thursday, my heart leapt to see Han Solo and Chewbacca back to their old tricks. And then it sank, when I realized that the husband of a General couldn’t possibly live that life too.
My hopes now lie with Finn and Poe, but oh, how passionately I’ve shipped Han and Leia since that very first trilogy marathon. The reveal of their separation is bad, but the reveal of the reason for it was worse. Because the blame doesn’t lie with either of them. Their son essentially died, and that’s an experience that the majority of relationships can’t survive. What kills me are all my head canons for the early days of the Organa-Solo family. Leia and Han choosing to name their son after Ben, filling the position of their “only hope” again. Luke meeting his nephew for the first time. Han taking Ben into the Falcon and letting him fiddle with the controls. Chewbacca babysitting and not bothering to mind when Ben pulls on his fur. C-3PO scanning his data banks for child-rearing advice that nobody asked for. If the times weren’t that good – if they didn’t have it perfect there for a little while – then I don’t think that Han and Leia would have been so broken by Ben’s loss. The only consolation is that there’s obviously no loss of love between them. Self-preservation won out. There’s no coiled resentment. And who knows what would have happened if Han had made it home from Starkiller Base alive? I hate this movie.
Ben Solo Is A Little Shit
Some brilliant geek created an Emo Kylo Ren Twitter account, because of course they did. Its bio is “Ren’s rights activist,” which is maybe the best joke I’ve heard all year. As basically everyone has said since The Force Awakens review embargo lifted, Kylo Ren is what Anakin Skywalker should have been in the prequels. In Anakin’s defense, Ren doesn’t need to bridge a gap between Jedi-in-training and scariest motherfucker in the galaxy. We don’t know what Ren will be capable of in Episodes 8 and 9, which takes some burden off of that character’s shoulders.
Still, Kylo Ren fills the angsty egotist spot with some gravitas. Adam Driver is well cast. He gives Ren’s determination and insecurities equal weight and gives Star Wars fans another villain to band together and hate hate hate. He could rescue cargo ships full of nuns, puppies, and One Direction, and I’d still want to watch him die a painful death. I knew that Han’s death was coming. Harrison Ford’s role was too big. Ren’s daddy issues were too strong. Regardless, I almost broke Kim’s hand during the bridge scene. I had time to prepare, but it meant nothing in the end. Han Solo has been my guy since childhood. And the only downside to the continuation of the story is that he can no longer live forever. Ren is a coward. If he’d inherited a fraction of his father’s loyalty or an ounce of his mother’s sense of responsibility, Han would still be alive. Unfortunately, that’s what makes Ren so compelling and such a worthy Star Wars bad guy.
First Ever Lady Lightsaber Battle
I’m an adult with bills and responsibilities. And yet, one defining moment of my entire year was watching Rey be the very first female character to wield a lightsaber in battle. And wield it like the fierce, intuitive warrior that she is.
Luke Lives, Has Epic Beard
THIS IS A MAN WHO HAS SEEN THINGS.
Is he Rey’s dad? Maybe. Or maybe that’s what JJ and Kasdan WANT us to think. All I know for sure is that Luke is killing the Alec Guinness look, and Mark Hamill probably taunted Harrison and Carrie with his split-second shooting schedule relentlessly. Come back to civilization, Luke. You’ve got a best friend to avenge.
Was The Force Awakens everything you dreamed it would be? Let’s talk it out in the comments.